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Zadina preparing for next shot with Red Wings

Sniper skating in Czech Republic with Hronek

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

When it comes to sniper Filip Zadina, Red Wings fans were left wondering what could have been.

Because of a broken ankle suffered Jan. 31 in New York, Zadina's season was cut short just when he was starting to come into his own.

Zadina, who only turned 20 in late November, was about ready to return when the NHL paused the season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I was actually ready to come back and play but the staff, they kind of canceled my plans," Zadina said last week on The Red and White Authority podcast. "I'm probably, I would say, kind of sad about it because I was ready to go in order to get back on with the boys but it happened what happened. So maybe next year. I hope so."

Zadina said he remained in Detroit for a while in the hopes that the season would resume before finally returning home to the Czech Republic.

"We waited a little bit to know a little bit more information about what was going on, but then all of a sudden, I don't know who said that, maybe Mr. Yzerman I would say, he said we could go home, all the guys from back (across) the ocean, we can fly home, so we just decided to take the first flight and fly home," Zadina said.

Of course, just as things were locked down in the United States, they were in the Czech Republic as well.

"It's getting way better than it was, which I'm glad for." Zadina said. "When I get back home, it was still we had to stay at home for two weeks, it was crazy. I couldn't even stay at home because I like to do something but I had to. You had to wear the mask around your mouth, around your face, you couldn't go to visit your grandparents or something, you just had to stay away from all the people. Right now it's getting better. I think it's coming as usual."

Zadina said he was at home with his parents, Andrea and Marek, who stayed in quarantine with him the entire time.

The Wings had given Zadina some workouts that didn't require weights or special equipment so he could remain in shape while staying safe at home.

But of course now that he's healthy, Zadina wishes he could have played some more hockey this season.

"I'm feeling really good, I would say, but it's kind of boring without the games, without hockey in LCA so kind of boring," Zadina said. "But glad to be home with my family."

Zadina had eight goals and seven assists in 28 games with the Wings, showing off many of the improvements he had made since being drafted sixth overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in Dallas.

Video: DET@CHI: Zadina picks the corner on Crawford for PPG

"I would just say I'm stronger right now than I was obviously when I got drafted," Zadina said. "Maybe faster. I knew how to figure it out myself on the ice, I knew what to do just to keep it simple and play give and go and not just do it all by myself. It helped me a lot to use my teammates, my linemates and made the game way easier for myself than I was kind of used to from the CHL or when I was playing back here. I think I'm just being smarter than I was and more experienced than I was."

After the preseason last fall, the Wings sent Zadina back to the American Hockey League's Grand Rapids Griffins for some more seasoning.

"I knew it's not the end of the world when they send me down to the AHL, to Grand Rapids," Zadina said. "I knew that we had a good coaching staff there, a good group of the boys, a good team. I had a couple Czech buddies there so it was nice. It wasn't that hard to be there but obviously I was kind of disappointed in myself that I was sent down. It's part of hockey life. Just those very special players, (Auston) Matthews and (Connor) McDavid and those guys, they made the team right away.

"But some of the guys like I am and the others, we have a different way to make the NHL so it's about time. Nothing is right away. It's all about timing. If you're patient and you love to play hockey, it doesn't matter where, you make the NHL next year or in two years. It doesn't really matter."

In 21 games with the Griffins, Zadina had nine goals and seven assists.

When Anthony Mantha suffered an injury in late November while playing in New Jersey, Zadina was a natural option to be recalled to provide offense.

"It was the same the first year I was sent down," Zadina said. "I knew I was a better player than I was so I was again, disappointed but I knew I was closer than the first year. I knew I had to work harder and just be a better player and they will realize it and I would get a chance. All of a sudden, I did the right things on the ice and I did my best, then I got called up and I was the happiest guy in the world."

In Mantha's absence, Zadina got a shot on the power play and it worked to his advantage as he had seven points (4-3-7) with that opportunity.

"I was just talking to myself that the chance to play hockey and to play this game, just be yourself and do the best you can on the ice every single shift and I think I did it," Zadina said. "That's why I was getting rewarded as a goal or assist or bigger ice time on the ice. I was just trying to be myself and do the best on the ice."

When the Wings went on the All-Star break, the Wings wanted to keep Zadina rolling so they sent him down to Grand Rapids for a game.

All Zadina did in that Jan. 24 game against the San Diego Gulls was score two goals and assist on the overtime winner in the 4-3 victory.

Zadina returned to Detroit and then played in just two more games, at the New York Rangers and at home against the Rangers, before his season came to a halt.

He's still working and preparing for his next chance with the Wings.

Although his shot is already elite, Zadina is continuing to perfect it.

"I have a net behind the house," Zadina said. "At the garden we have more space back there so I can shoot the puck. I have to be careful. If I hit the post or miss the net, our neighbor, they wouldn't be happy to have the puck in their wall."

Zadina admitted if he did miss with the puck, it wouldn't be the first time he had done some damage but fortunately, his neighbors didn't get mad.

"They were nice to me and they understood that before and they are still understanding that," he said.

With things opening back up in the Czech Republic, Zadina has been able to get back on the ice.

"I've been skating quite a bit, maybe two or three times a week," Zadina said. "I'm actually happy for that, that I could do that, because if I would not be on the ice the next two months, I would probably do bad things to myself because I miss being on the ice for sure."

What makes it even better is Zadina has a familiar friend on the ice.

"I'm going on the ice with Filip Hronek, we are skating together, doing some fun stuff together on the ice," Zadina said. "It's more like with just the players from the Czech Republic and Fil.

"It's great. He's a good person, he's nice guy to me so I like to talk to him, spend time with him on the ice, off the ice. It's great to have him that close. He lives like, 25 minutes away, so it's nice to have him here."

Video: Filip Zadina Describes His First NHL Goal

On Wednesday, Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman reported that the tentative opening for 2020-21 NHL training camps is Nov. 17 with Dec. 1 as the tentative start date for the season.

As it has been the last two years, Zadina's goal is to make the Wings out of the preseason and remain with them the whole year.

But as everyone knows, the novel coronavirus is likely to have the final say on what happens.

"I know, it's crazy," Zadina said. "But I think no one knows right now at this time what's going to happen in two months, if the season is even started again and play out the playoffs. I would love to be there as soon as possible but I don't know if it's going to be possible, if I'll be able to go there and be with the team or even when we start being on the ice as a group. If I could fly tomorrow, I would do that for sure. It's not up to me right now."

But when it is safe to return to the United States, Zadina said he'll be ready.

"I was there over half the season with Detroit and I loved it," Zadina said. "I would love to spend every single day with them. It's my dream and I loved to be there.

"I'm kind of sad about it but as soon as they open the borders and I will be able to be on the ice with the team, I'll take my (butt) back to Detroit, baby."

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